Saturday, June 29, 2019

Short Film Spotlight: BREATHE (2019)


Welcome back to another installment of SHORT FILM SPOTLIGHT, where I highlight some of the best short films out there.  This week, I take a look at the powerfully dramatic short film... BREATHE.

I recently discovered this brilliant and emotional short film after listening to the writer and director, Devon Stewart, talk about it on an episode of a podcast I listen to called Collider Live. He spoke about this being his directorial debut, and if I hadn’t known that, I never would have guessed it. Breathe is a stunning piece of filmmaking, on every level. Devon Stewart proved that he is made for this, as his eye for composition and his ability to pull emotion from the audience is blatantly evident here.


Here is the official synopsis for Breathe: Star Tristin Mays plays Charlotte, a woman battling her own inner demons as she pursues a questionable relationship against the wishes of her mother.  This is just the tip of the iceberg, and if you haven’t watched the film yet, do so now because I’m about to head into spoiler territory...

SPOILERS!!!  You have been warned.




At the beginning of this film, it’s set up to make you think Charlotte, played by the amazingly talented Tristin Mays, who you may know from the current iteration of MacGyver where she plays Riley, is in an abusive relationship, as evident from the massive shiner on her left eye.  Her behaviors are indicative of abuse (depressed state, lack of appetite, hostility toward others), and are portrayed masterfully by Mays.  But as the film progresses, it seems as though there’s something more going on.

We see a snippet of a flashback of Charlotte being attacked while on her way home from her mother’s house. We learn this took place a year ago, but we are led to believe that perhaps she has become some sort of sex slave, in servitude to her attacker, possibly by threat of harm either to herself, or her loved ones. Or at least that’s how I interpreted it. She’s obviously suffering from some severe PTSD, and, like many abuse victims, it seems like she isn’t handling it well. It’s not totally clear, and that’s the beauty of this entire film. Not knowing the whole truth forces you to try to fill in the gaps, and the mind can conjure up all sorts of scenarios.

But then we reach the end, and the truth is revealed. Charlotte isn’t in an abusive relationship. In fact, it’s quite the opposite, as she has taken it upon herself to learn how to defend against any future attack by taking up boxing. This was an extremely powerful moment for me as there are people in my life, loved ones, who have suffered through similar ordeals as Charlotte. Some were able to get back up and push forward with life, taking charge so it never happens again, and some crumpled in on themselves. I see Charlotte as teetering on the edge of both.  She’s trying to take back her strength, take back her identity, her self, but her emotions, her anger, are driving her downward in a bit of a spiral. And her coach sees that. She still has a lot of work to do, and probably always will, but it’s how she goes about dealing with it all that matters.


This was a truly beautiful film, and was even more poignant on the second watch. Knowing the truth, you see more of the picture, you better understand the reactions from Charlotte’s mom and brother, and from Charlotte herself. It paints a bigger picture of a woman who was broken, but is trying desperately to put herself back together on her own terms.  It’s powerful, it’s emotional, and it’s a film that everyone should see. I look forward to seeing what’s next from Devon Stewart, because if it’s anywhere near as good as Breathe, it’ll be worth the watch.

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